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What on earth is a Cross-break?

Explaining the many terms used for a ‘cross-break’ by clients, as well as many others such as repertoire, top 2 boxes etc.

“Looks to my untrained eye that there might be an issue with the data – it’s presenting selected questions across/alongside the sequential/main questions – see screenshot?”

– A not so uncommon client comment

Quantitative data outputs can be daunting, and on first sight, sometimes so are client requests.

Having worked in the market research industry for a couple years now, I’ve dealt with numerous clients, all of whom understand market research in their own way and use (sometimes possibly make up..) various terms to describe what they want or how they want data visually. After a recent conversation in the office over what ‘banners’ meant, we decided it was our duty to share our knowledge surrounding ‘market research jargon’, terms that we have managed to decipher.

According to Merriam-Webster ‘cross break’ is defined as ‘a separation of wood cells across the grain’, however, I as well as fellow market researchers will generally understand the term ‘cross breaks’ as a way of observing data changes across various questions, hence we understand where the confusion stems from.

I associate tabs with web browser tabs and when banner was first mentioned in an email I was sure I wasn’t working on an advertising project. Since then I’ve educated myself on the terms thrown around, for instance standard breaks and banners are all names for cross breaks. Thinking of the data visually, I can see how ‘banners’ is clustered as a synonym for cross-breaks, as you see responses to demographic questions going along the X axis, looking much like a banner going across the page.  

You also hear the terms tabs, tables or data cuts which actually refers to the numerical output of the research project, i.e. excel data tables (sometimes referred to as raw data).  Cross breaks, standard breaks, banners etc. are all in effect types of data cuts.

Clients also have a variety of ways of referring to how they want the data calculated or displayed on the standard Y axis too. Mean scores and standard deviations are common of course, but we also get other phrases in client tab specs (table specifications).

Net score’ is one such term used by clients, it’s often used in grid questions (see pic below) in order to group codes (responses) in a question. For instance, grouping ‘strongly agree’ and ‘agree’ to get a higher percentage score. There are yet again other terms used for net scores, such as top 2 boxes and nets.

My all-time favourite word I came across was a ‘repertoire’, my initial reaction was to ‘google it’, and so again I found myself on Merriam-Webster which defined it as ‘a list or supply of dramas, operas, pieces, or parts that a company or person is prepared to perform’. Again this led to a great deal of  confusion! We later found out it simply meant a ‘table listing the number of codes/responses selected in a question’ (i.e. code frame) and has since been added to the research lingo used in the office.

So next time you see a word in your emails you don’t understand, don’t panic, it’s probably just an exciting new phrase for the tried and tested.

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